Monday, 29 March 2010

Foyles bookstore literary event

On 20 March I went to Picador Day at Foyles bookstore, part of a series of events for writers where you can hear authors from different publishers talk about their books. There were 15 people on the panel, who were mainly novelists along with poets and biographers, and the day was split into four categories: 'Family and Self', 'Writing of Place', 'Poetry and Beyond' and 'Becoming a Writer'. It was mostly directed at people who want to write books, but as a journalist I found it inspiring and gained a few helpful hints and tips for my own work. Here are five quotes from the authors that I found most enlightening.

1. Jon Ronson on 'Family and Self'. Although he didn't recommend writing about your personal life, having done it himself in The Guardian, he did have this to say: "Always put yourself in as a slightly unreliable narrator. Never patronise the people you're writing about and consequently portray yourself in the worst possible light."

3. William Fiennes on 'Family and Self'. His favourite expression is "Truth in conference with the imagination". He was speaking about how to write memoir and how a fiction writer can look back and use their imaginations to make the past more colourful.

2.  Jim Crace on 'Writing of Place'. On answering a question put to him from the audience about how to prioritise your information, he said, "Evoke a response with images of place such as light falling on a broken piece of glass in the forest, don't try to tick all the boxes."

4. Prof Gerard Woodward, who teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, on 'Becoming a Writer': "Don't borrow a voice from your favourite writer because this is often a mistake."

5. Jim Crace, who before becoming a novelist was a journalist, on 'Writing of Place': "Accuracy is important [when writing about real places] because the reader will notice any false notes."

The next writers' day at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, will be on 8th May with Vintage publishers covering 'Classic Travel Writing' and 'Sex in Literature'. Tickets are £18 full price, goody bag included.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Kensington Palace exhibition 'The Enchanted Palace'

London's Kensington Palace is a rather gloomy and melancholic historic royal palace, the curtains drawn to preserve the contents and the State Apartments fairly bare except for the paintings and a few items of furniture. But that's all to change on 26 March when its new exhibition 'The Enchanted Palace', which features fashion and installations, opens. 

These pictures are from Wildworks, a Cornish theatre company, which is collaborating with the palace to transform the rooms. Above is a re-imagining of Queen Victoria's bedroom, where she was proclaimed queen (she grew up in the palace).

For 'The Enchanted Palace' Vivienne Westwood, Stephen Jones, Aminaka Wilmont, William Tempest, Boudicca and illustrator/set designer Echo Morgan have each been assigned a room and will make costumes in response to the setting and the princesses who lived there. Westwood is making "a dress for a rebellious princess" inspired by Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George IV, Jones will display his hats in the Privy Chamber inspired by 18th-century busts, Wilmont's "dress of tears" is based on the tradition of mourners collecting tears, Tempest has Queen Victoria's bedroom and is creating a dress echoing the oriental bird pattern of the wallpaper, Boudicca will show "dresses the colour of time" and Morgan's "dress of the world" will be decorated with prints of antique maps.     

History, theatrical set design and my favourite designers – what more could I ask for.  


Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has done it again; created another film as loveable as his previous hit Amelie (2001). I went to see the new release of Micmacs and am still marveling at Jeunet's character-building techniques, brand of French humour, visual aesthetic and childlike imagination. 

The plot involves eight misfits who recycle scrap in their Batcave-esque workshop, one of whom is the main character, Bazil. They all embark on an adventure to help Bazil get revenge against two arms dealers responsible for his father's death from a land mine and the stray bullet that's buried in his head. 

It's a thriller, of sorts, and the action sequences are some of the best and most original I've seen for a long time – an aspect that the critics have not paid much attention to. This is surprising considering action is not what Jeunet is known for. Take the slow-motion scene when the guns are thrown into the air at the video shop in the opening scene when Bazil gets shot, or the flicker of the girly calendar during the explosion at the weapons factory – genius. These details, and in particularly the animated interludes characteristic of Jeunet, make a second or third viewing of Micmacs essential. 

The automated sculptures that feature in the film are another highlight. They were made by the Parisian artist Gilbert Peyre. I could watch the mouse puppet, the walking stool, the weight lifter and the dancing skirt and blouse again and again. His website is I will be sending him a thank you letter.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

London jotter's introduction

Welcome to the London diary of a magazine journalist. I love this city and all the culture it has on offer and I hope to convey some of its flavour in sights, sounds and energy. Check my blog for cultural events including arts, book and film reviews, profiles, launches, parties and bijoux finds.